My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Five Grizzly Day

My friend Teri, a fellow volunteer at Malheur NWR came to visit me and do raptor surveys. We met at a campground at Island Park, a very elongated town south of Yellowstone.  The next day we met Michael and did the Shotgun Valley Bird Survey with him. The following day we did the Centennial Valley Raptor Count, starting just south of my trailer to get the Idlewild Eagles.  But they had a failed nest this year and have finally left the nest area.  I still have to turn in my counts to eBird, so I don't have the details on the number of raptors we found.

A Swainson's Hawk from the Shotgun Valley Survey

We had to stop for these moose just a mile from my trailer 

We didn't finish the count until after 4:00 P.M. and then still had to pack up our cold stuff.  We were finally ready to leave about 5:00 P.M. and had a long drive over to the southeast side of Yellowstone - and I live on the west side. We got caught up in the Bison Crossing - they cross the road to go to the river in the evenings, and spent a couple of more hours than we expected getting to our camp.  (The bison are also in rut now, which makes for even more interesting watching as the young bulls tend the cows in pairs and then are run off by the old bulls when the cows come into estrus.) We were so tired, we just put up our tents and went to bed.

A sweet bison calf at the crossing

The next morning we got up early and went to look for wildlife and spent several hours scanning for bears and wolves in Haydin Valley. We were very lucky to see a two year old grizzly bear across the river from us.  Then we looked back up the road when a lot of people started stopping at the pullout behind us.  Then we saw a female grizzly with two cubs coming towards us.  We only got to watch them a few minutes before they disappeared behind a rise.

It was getting time to go to Norris Geyser where Teri wanted to find a friend who was volunteering there, so we started on down the road, only to get caught in another bison crossing. But another two year old grizzly bear was also crossing with them. People piled out of their cars and were within about 20 yards of him.  (And we are supposed to stay 100 yards from bears.) He kept coming toward the road and then started running and ran across the road in front of the car ahead of Teri.

I had to stop for this picture of dawn along Yellowstone Lake

This mature bull was still by himself but may start chasing off the youngsters soon

I deliberately took this picture - from my car - to show how close
people were getting to this bear - the only one close enough to photograph

He'll have a bigger hump soon and he has the little ears and dished face of a griz

I had never met a grizzly bear before this day so I was delighted. Teri was also happy to see them. We didn't see any wolves but planned to keep looking for them.

We continued on the the Norris Geyser Basin and were still there before it opened at 9:00 A.M. So we did a quick tour of Porcelain Basin before talking to a ranger. He told us that her friend, Dick, was volunteering at the Ranger Museum in Norris Campground.

A view of the first geyser in the Basin

Even though I had stayed at the Norris Campground on my last two trips to Yellowstone, I had not toured the Ranger Museum so was happy to get time to do so.  Dick was doing a job you have to have special qualifications for and also go on a waiting list.  And you can only do it for two weeks.  You get to talk to the public about the role of rangers in Yellowstone and also have to have both been a ranger and retired from the National Park Service. Dick was on his last day and was training his successor when we caught up with him. We watched the movie about Yellowstone in the early days and enjoyed the beautiful building, left over from when the Army ran the park. Then he suggested we come back and meet him at 5:00 and go to supper with him and his wife Jenny.

We agreed and then went off to find a short hike.  We ended up hiking about 6 miles to Grebe Lake on a mostly flat, easy hike. This went through the area that was burned so badly back in the 80's  and which had lots of trees on the ground.  The day had turned cloudy and I couldn't get a picture of the red crossbills we saw high in a tree. But we were both glad to be walking after sitting in the car  the two previous days.

On the trail to Grebe Lake

View along Grebe Lake as we started our hike back

There was a family of trumpeter swans with two signets at the lake. 

Later we rejoined Dick and Jenny and went to supper at the cafe at Old Faithful, after we couldn't get reservations to the restaurant in the Old Faithful Inn.  We ended the day in a misting rain, watching Old Faithful go off.  Then we spent another hour getting back to our camp driving on a winding road with almost no markings, including the center stripe and setting up my tent in the rain.  (Teri decided to just sleep in her car. ) But it was my favorite day in Yellowstone.

The Ranger Museum - I got to enjoy this rocker in the evening